Saigon brims with energy, much of which comes from its abundance of commerce, especially the local markets. Some of them, like Ben Thanh, Tan Dinh and Binh Tay markets, are famous tourist attractions that seem to stimulate every sense at once. There are myriad specialised markets in Saigon that eschew the tourist-trapping nature and are a deep part of local life. Much of Saigon is hidden under its rich layers. These hidden markets are rare gems.
Image source: blisssaigon.com
Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street in Chinatown is the go-to spot for anyone interested in purchasing decorations and especially lanterns. It is especially frequented by locals looking for decorations during the Tet festival. You’ll find artificial peach and apricot blossoms, models of red carp, gold coins, and red envelopes for handing out the traditional “lucky money”. Tasty snacks like sticky rice cake are abundant on the street. In the month leading up to the mid-autumn festival a variety of traditional lamps are available for the holiday of the harvest.
Crossroads of Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street and Luong Nhu Hoc, District 5 - Image soucre: citipos.vn
Chinese Medicine Market
The Chinese Medicine Market in Cho Lon (Chinatown) is home to over 180 Chinese medicine stores and clinics. Located on Hai Thuong Lan Ong street and the bordering streets of Luong Nhu Hoc, Phan Huy Chu and Trieu Quang Phuc, the area boasts the biggest collection of traditional Chinese medicine in the south of Vietnam. The smell of herbs permeates the air as visitors peruse the aisles. It’s the place to go to procure the ingredients necessary for a time-honoured tradition of medicine.
Hai Thuong Lan Ong street and the bordering streets of Luong Nhu Hoc, Phan Huy Chu, Trieu Quang Phuc, District 5 - Image soucre: kingfucoidan.vn
Motorbike Accessories Market
With over 8 million motorbikes and counting, Saigon is the motorbike capital of the world, so it stands to reason that it would have a dedicated market for motorbike accessories. It’s on Nguyen Chi Thanh street in District 5. Hundreds of stores peddle wholesale and retail parts for Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Piaggio motorbikes, ranging from original expensive parts to cheap Chinese knock-offs.
Image source: spadaforaphoto.com
Thuan Kieu Bird Market
One of the most colourful markets is the lively Thuan Kieu Bird Market, a well-hidden gem at the crossroads of Thuan Kieu, Hong Bang and Chay Van Liem streets in District 5 and nestled under an old tamarind tree. Opening at 6am and closing at 6pm, hundreds of bird cages and birds of many colours, sizes and breeds are displayed. Probably more plentiful and noteworthy than the birds are the stockpiles of insects like locusts, crickets, centipedes, grasshoppers, ticks and termites sold as avian cuisine. Be sure to check the collection of scorpions, snakes and other uncommon creepy-crawlies.
Image source: scootersaigontour.com
Le Hong Phong Pet Market
Le Hong Phong street is the proverbial place to “see a man about a dog”. It is home to a strip of pet stores. First moved from District 1 to District 5 in 2000, locals refer to it as the Pet Market, and it is is known as the primary place where pets (mostly dogs and cats) of numerous sizes and breeds can be purchased, some of them for thousands of US dollars each. On a more unfortunate note, this is one of the first places that people who are in search of their stolen pets come to in hopes of being reunited with their furred friends.
Second-Hand Items – Binh Thanh
The somewhat poetically-named Market of Unused Things (Ve Chai) in Binh Thanh is the closest thing to a never-ending garage sale. Ve Chai refers to articles that no longer have use. Established in the late aughts, it features used knick-knacks such as watches, Zippo lighters and jewellery. You might even be able to find some vintage vinyl treasures.
Image source: thanhnien.vn
Trang Tu Fruit Market – District 5
If you’re looking for affordable fruits and veggies, go to the produce market on Trang Tu street in District 5. Next to the Cho Lon coach station, sellers bring delectable delights directly from the Mekong Delta and other farmlands in Vietnam. Fruits like mangosteen, tamarind, sapote, soursop, dragon fruit and rambutan can be found here. You can peruse and purchase produce without even having to get off your motorbike.
Image source: media.foody.vn
Ho Thi Ky Flower Market
Ho Thi Ky Flower Market is the premier wholesale flower market in Saigon. It is a mere 500 metres, but along its kiosks, everything necessary to create ornate floral arrangements can be purchased. The array of flowers make it one of Saigon’s most beautiful (and exquisitely-smelling) markets.
Image source: stacieflinner.com
Electronics Market – District 10
Ly Nam De, Tan Phuoc, Vinh Vien, Ly Thuong Kiet Street in District 10 are where you’ll find the largest conglomeration of electronics shops in Ho Chi Minh City, including items that may be seen as outdated to some but are very well-priced. It features an abundance of smartphones, laptops, adapters, headphones and other electronic accessories, displayed on plastic sheets spread out across the pavement.
Banner Image source: media.dulich24.com.vn
Best Eco Friendly Cosmetics and Skincare in Saigon & Vietnam
Within the past year, it seems that consumers throughout Vietnam are becoming increasingly interested in spending a little extra on eco-friendly products, in Saigon and elsewhere. A number of restaurants throughout Ho Chi Minh City are now providing metal or bamboo straws, stores are hawking reusable goods. People are collectively beginning to care more and more about the environment, and skincare is no exception to this movement.
As the demand for sustainable consumption continues to rise, so does the public’s desire for environmentally friendly cosmetics. Several Korean outlets throughout town such as Innisfree and Skin Food offer them and, more interestingly, plenty of local companies are making their way into the market, too.
Typically, all kinds of sustainable beauty products are clustered together under the umbrella of being “green,” or “organic,” but the products on this list go above and beyond. Each of these companies based in Vietnam source their formulas sustainably, use all-natural ingredients and offer eco-friendly packaging.
For those of you interested in buying some environmentally friendly cosmetics and skincare products in Saigon and beyond in Vietnam, look no further: here’s a list of some of my favourite brands, as well as a couple that I’m keen on trying.
The Coconut Religion brand instantly made a name for itself in both the expat and local communities in Saigon and Vietnam in record time. It has been in operation for just a few months, but this travel-friendly, certified organic, raw cold-pressed coconut oil has become a staple in every recent market and event and also maintains a killer social media presence.
The Coconut Religion founder, Maggie Shen, is an Australian genius who not only sources the products from the fertile Mekong Delta region, but has made sure that the product stays thick and creamy despite the tropical heat. How cool is that? The ‘jungle to jar’ products have gained a cult following for a reason. The products come carefully packaged in all-natural fabric and I recently purchased her lavender coconut oil as well as the lip balm. Take my money, Coconut Religion.
I attended a workshop at The Hive, in District 2 of Ho Chi Minh City, that promoted eco-friendly products last year. At that workshop, I and several other attendees created our own organic lipsticks using beeswax, organic argan oil, Vitamin E, coconut oil and natural pigments. I’ve been a fan of lipstick for most of my life, but I’ve become turned off at the thought of animal testing.
I wear my lipstick from The Queen daily; it’s not as thick as standard brands, but I enjoy that. While I’m not sure this brand has taken off quite yet throughout town, I stand behind the quality and thought that goes into the process to create such environmentally friendly cosmetics.
Another local brand in Vietnam making a name for itself is Stone Hill, an innovative business that produces natural products from Vietnamese cocoa plants. The company sources all of its cocoa from its own farm in Dong Nai Province, all of which is grown to quality standards and helps make the Stone Hill soaps and skincare products stand head and shoulders above less sustainable options.
I have a jar of Stone Hill’s cocoa butter, and I swear by it as it’s one of the only products that makes my chronically dry skin feel silky smooth. In addition to my favourite product, Stone Hill also offers cocoa-based scrubs, scented body butter, hand cream and a handful of scented soaps. Definitely check this one out if your skin needs some nourishment!
I haven’t tried any of these products yet, but The Herbal Cup, based in Ho Chi Minh City, has certainly been on my radar. One of the more interesting things about this company is that it provides a free consultation to decide which of its products are most suitable for your skin.
Each of the environmentally friendly skincare confections include organic ingredients such as gac fruit oil, centella, tomato, sesame and the ever-popular tea tree leaves. Consumers have the option from a number of creations such as scrubs, masks, lipsticks, cleansing gels and body lotions. Everything is locally sourced, so there will be no regrets after purchase.
The plant-based products created by Herpas’ owner Ha Truc Le were originally intended to encourage Vietnamese consumers to purchase locally-made products. Truc’s concoctions are formulated through her extensive knowledge of natural healing properties, which is what makes Herpas such an interesting, environmentally friendly cosmetics and skincare line. Her lotions, scrubs and oils are intended to lock in moisture and reduce the effects of ageing, ideal for the amount of toxic chemicals our skin is exposed to here.
Have you ever read stories about people who were living traditional lifestyles, working in high-income positions who ended up quitting their job to follow their passion? That’s precisely what Quynh, the founder of A Banker’s Secret did. Before catalysing the concept of A Banker’s Secret, Quynh was working as, well, you guessed it: a banker. She spent her free time creating handmade scented soaps for her loved ones, and soon realised that’s what she would rather be doing full-time.
Quynh quit her job in 2012, and has embarked on an exciting journey since, turning her labour of love into a thriving environmentally friendly cosmetics and skincare company in Vietnam. Although she simply sold just scented soaps at the start, Quynh now offers masks, scrubs, essential oils, cream oils and pomade as well.
Located in the heart of Saigon’s District 2, on the busy Thao Dien Street, sits this store, which is known for carrying some of the highest quality, environmentally friendly cosmetics and skincare in Vietnam. Not only that, but it’s a one-stop-shop for those of you who are also keen on revamping your entire lifestyle into a more sustainable, eco-friendly, non-toxic one; there are plenty of food, household and skincare items available for your ethical shopping needs.
I think it’s safe to say that many people across the globe would agree that grandmothers encompass some sort of mystical wisdom. More interestingly, Skinna was derived from that notion. Over a decade ago, Christine Ho was talking to her grandmother when she realised the matriarch of her family had some pretty interesting beauty secrets up her sleeve. Ho’s grandmother provided some ancient Vietnamese beauty tips that were passed down from the Hue royal lineage; some of the holistic recommendations include household ingredients such as eggs and turmeric as natural exfoliants.
Image source: Skinna
Each of Skinna’s products cater to varying skin types and conditions. Items sold include lipstick, serums, creams, cleansing products, sheet masks and body wash, making Skinna one of the most prosperous environmentally friendly cosmetics and skincare providers in Saigon and Vietnam!
Top shopping experiences in Saigon will usually include any of the typical traditional markets or shopping malls in the city. Rachel tells you more great spots to buy unique products and souvenirs.
For me, living in Ho Chi Minh City I have the luxury of scouring the local markets and the occasional shopping centers whenever I please. I find the value of shopping in this vibrant city to be ever changing. New stores and boutiques are popping up here and there in hidden alleyways, top floors of cafés and more. I am in awe of the beautiful, unique designs that catch my eye on the streets everyday.
When it comes to shopping in this energetic city, the options are endless. HCMC has something for everyone when it comes to quality, handcrafted products. With an array of skills and goods — embroidery, vases, coffee, paintings, woodwork, crafts and more — one can’t go wrong when it comes to shopping here, it is just a matter of knowing where to look.
Ben Thanh Market.
Now, as far as retail shopping here it is not necessarily considered the “shopping city” of Southeast Asia. Yes, there is the Diamond Plaza and Vincom Center shopping malls for the luxury brand names along with the local Vietnamese markets — Ben Thanh Market, Saigon Square and more. However, when one mentions a shopping trip to a friend, HCMC doesn’t generally come to mind.
Normally Bangkok, Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur are mentioned as more ‘go-to’ shopping destinations for your usual international chains like Forever 21, Gap American Eagleand so on. Although these chains cannot be found here in HCMC, the value of what can be found here is much greater than what most would expect.
As the largest city in Vietnam, HCMC houses a hub of talented artists and designers from near and far. Although it is a new and emerging market, the merchandise quality and value is much higher than what can be found in the larger retailers at the shopping malls.
With the growing emergence of up and coming designers, HCMC has become a much more worthwhile shopping experience. Just last April, Station 3A among other areas around town have given local artists the opportunity to showcase their work.
Photo credit: Station 3A.
Located in a hidden alley off of Ton Duc Thang Street in District 1, Station 3A exhibits galleries, studios, clothing stores, cafés and more — shoppers can find high quality products ranging from fashion accessories, pottery, artwork and more. With a fusion of local art and design, this hub of creativity has brought in high-quality products. Stores such as the famous pottery shop, Sa Dec District features Vietnamese handicrafts inspired by the Mekong Delta in addition to Cushion Art exhibiting home furnishings and accessories inspired by symbols of Vietnam like the lotus flowers, incense and more. The value and authenticity of these shopping experienceshere cannot be found in those major cities mentioned before.
Photo credit: Cushion Art.
This new influx of hot spots has opened up throughout this city within the past few years catering not only to the morepermanent expats of HCMC but also the passer-bys. The café/restaurant/boutique — L’Usine (main location is at 151/1 Dong Khoi St. D. 1) is just one of the many examples of boutique-style cafes opening up throughout the city that have successfully incorporated contemporary global fashion and Vietnamese creativity into one. Although their products are not cheap they are of the highest quality and it is obvious in the designs and craftsmanship of each piece of merchandise. From women’s and men’s clothing to little trinkets such as notebooks, wall art and jewelry — L’Usine is a prime example of the movement that is occurring throughout HCMC in the contemporary shopping scene. A few other cafes that incorporate fashion into their settings include Au Parc (23 Han Thuyen, D.1), Merci Boutique Café (93/15 Xo Viet Nghe TinhSt., Binh Thanh) and more.
On top of the designers and boutiques, we mustn’t forget about what makes Vietnam so distinct and that is thelocal tailors here. Known as one of the leading manufacturing countries — Vietnam houses a handful of skilled tailors who can make almost anything. From shoes to jewelry, dresses, suits and more — the options are endless and the value is much greater than what can be found in a retail chain.
When I was in need of a full-length gown for a last minute event, I turned to a local dress tailor for help. After doing a bit of research I found a gown style online. I then took the picture to a tailor in Phu Nhuan, located just outside of District 1. She took my measurements, I explained to her the type of fabric I wanted and a week later, I had my gown. Simple, right? The gown was an exact replica of the photograph I had shown her. The original design was priced at a retail value of $600 and I didn’t even pay half of that for my custom-made gown. The total price ended up being only $100 for a perfectly fit floor-length gown. This was when I realized how much unique this aspect was to this country in terms of fashion and shopping. Being able to create your own design, choose your fabrics and have a well-crafted final product is a one-of-a-kind experience here. This aspect of HCMC is overlooked when travelers think about the value of shopping in this city. Custom-made products that are made with the highest quality of fabrics and craftsmanship at a reasonable price, this is what defines the real shopping scene in HCMC. So why not take advantage of it during your travels? In as little as 24 hours, the tailors can have a full ensemble made!
Photo credit: L'Usine.
Hunting for Fabric
If you’re the type of person who wants to pick out the fabric on your own some key markets to be sure to stop by include, Fabric Street (located along Hai Ba Trung and the Tan Dinh Market), Soai Kinh Lam Market (545 Tran Hung Dao, District 5), and Craft Market which can be found on the corner of Tran Hung Dao and Chau Van Liem in District 5 as well. It may be a little extra work to go and pick out the fabrics yourself but who better to pick out the material than you since you will be the one wearing it.
Although the list of markets varies, one can find most of what they’re looking for at any of the ones listed above. In addition, keep an eye out for local tailor shops along the streets as one makestheir way through HCMC, from custom shoes, wedding dresses and suit tailor shops on Le Thanh Ton Street to all throughout the city — you may end up stumbling upon exactly what they’re looking for.
Although HCMC may not have international retail chains like Forever 21, etc., this city has something much greater than that. As a fast growing city with an influx of people, new businesses and creativity, the fashion and design realm is on the cusp of taking off. This is just the beginning for this dynamic city. Whether you’re passing through or you live here permanently and you’re searching for a different shopping experience — go on an adventure; get outside of your comfort zone. Design your own suit or gown from head to toe, go to that one market located on the edge of District 5 and find something that speaks to you. Find something that represents the true value of shopping here. Seek out the unknown and find something that makes you feel the inspiration and the culture of this amazing city. The question you must ask yourself first is, “What are you really looking for?”
Just like fashion, interior design is ever-evolving with time. As every season and year goes by, we continue to pick up inspirations from remarkable living spaces that meet strict interior design codes. The Casa Nhà editorial team would love to walk you through three major design trends that are gaining traction right now in 2020. Take inspiration from these codes and make it your own. It’s your home, your style.
Monochromatic continues to be a winning trend in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down despite having been the top player in the design game for years. The trend is hugely popular for its capability to easily transition from season to season.
Image source: Casa Nhà
Will a bed draped in deep blue go well with an olive green sofa? Will a chestnut buffet and a floral printed carpet be a match made in harmony? With the Monochromatic trend, you don’t have to invest too much time or brain power on these decisions. All you have to do is focus on a distinct colour scheme and arrange its varying shades to easily create an overall aesthetic that is unified, harmonious, and makes a visual impact.
A pastel Monochromatic theme is easy to incorporate into the home and brings warmth and lightness while adding a touch of modernity.
The Palarma Dining Table is the perfect partner to a neutral coloured kitchen thanks to its natural wood colouring, giving the space an organic, airy feel and is particularly strong in areas with lots of natural light. And thanks to its compact size, the Palarma Dining Table is perfect for small to medium apartments.
Sharing the same wooden tones as the Palarma dining table, the Zoula Buffet, with its distinct square edges and long slender legs, adds impressive height and shape to your kitchen or dining space, adding visual interest and tonal balance. A gorgeous natural beige from top to toe, the Zoula Buffet is a modern Scandinavian revision of a 60s - 70s classic.
The Zoula Buffet successfully combines classic with modern Scandinavian design
The neutral wood colourway outlined above is a very basic and classic form of monochrome. The real beauty of the Monochromatic trend is that it can be taken in any direction. Especially evident during the second half of 2019 and first half of 2020, the Monochromatic trend has evolved beyond the realm of “safe” tones and allows for more freedom to be creative. Try bolder colours to tonally experiment with, like mustard yellow or dark royal blue.
Grand Millennial trend
The Grand Millennial living room boasts timeless, retro classics
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, live and breathe the digital world. They are responsible for the social media movement, are tech savvy, and always looking to the future. It can be quite a surprise for many, that the Grand Millennial trend which has found huge popularity amongst this generation, actually takes inspiration from way, WAY back into the past.
The trend takes stylistic influences from the 1920s through 1930s and presents these iconic design codes in a completely new modern light. It does not go to the extreme of injecting vintageness into every nook and cranny, but manages to put its own fresh spin on the era through the use of subtle antique details such as lace/crochet textiles, natural linens, and “granny” patterns. For homeowners seeking some personal quirkiness, this style breathes a warm and comforting soul into the ardent, fast-moving modern age of today. Old-style interior items and classic icons are revived with refreshed vitality for a brand new era.
The Sloopy Sofa is the perfect plush base to layer accents of Grand Millennium Chic
When choosing the perfect sofa, move away from minimal white or beige and opt for a slightly bolder yet still relatively safe option. A neutral tone such as sky blue or light gray is a great starting point. With the addition of a lace or crochet knitted throw, your living room will instantly have an air of Grand Millennial Chic.
The Aladin Candle Holder adds a small but bold stroke of antiquity that is functional and full of Grand Millennial charm
If you’re already happy with your current sofa, no biggie, there are plenty of other ways to insert the Grand Millennial spirit into your living room. Some quick alternative options include the addition of antique objects, vintage inspired cushions, and framed family photos.
In case you’re still a little unsure as to whether this unique design trend will fit into your existing living space, pop into the Casa Nhà warehouse where the dedicated team are more than happy to offer some tips.
The striking beauty of Japandi
“Japandi” is expected to take over in 2020. This hybrid aesthetic combines the modern-rustic vibe of Scandinavian design with the traditional elegance and purity that is associated with Japanese style. By blending the two, Japandi not only brings harmony to the living space, but also adds hints of personal eccentricity.
Japan and Scandinavia have a lot in common when it comes to home design. Each nation's aesthetics focus on simplicity, functionality, muted colours, and minimal, yet well-curated furnishings. It also favours the use of natural, organic, rustic materials such as woods, fabrics, ceramics, and rattan. The materials are preferred to be minimally processed in order to reserve the natural beauty and originality of the materials, bringing a pure, untamed, natural integrity to the home or office.
The Zoula Dining Table illuminates the Japandi dining room with its raw wood colour. The clean lines and soft edges of the body and legs balance out the stark surroundings
Where the Nordic palette is known for its warmth and coziness, Japandi goes a bit bolder with sleek black details and the darkest of glazes. Natural light woods are mixed with black metal in a 70-30 ratio to create a balanced, clean, and neat visual effect. When practicing Japandi, think about combining Scandinavian modern-rustic beauty with the polished timeless elegance of Japanese minimalism. Find items made from raw materials carefully treated and crafted by the most skilled Scandinavian hands to furnish your Japandi living space.
The Vega Dining Table is the epitome of Japandi. Its surface is made from natural oak wood undergoing minimal treatment to preserve the original shade. The black painted legs give an edgy, yet polished, sophisticated look to the dining room
The two style’s aesthetics focus on nature and the mindset of having the space to breathe and keep a clear mind. When designing a Japandi living space, natural elements and minimal details are some of the top criteria. Instead of filling up every corner, Japandi intentionally leaves many negative spaces and embraces the tranquil emptiness of life. Plants are among the most popular ways to express naturalism within Japandi. Plants don’t have to be luscious and green. A few bonsais methodically scattered around the house easily express both Japanese elegance and a Scandinvian nature-centered philosophy.
The Bonzai adds greenness and expands the sense of space for the living room
If you’re thinking about picking the best gift for that special someone, check out our list below of best gift ideas in Ho Chi Minh City. From scented candles, to relaxing armchairs, or how about an intimate dinner at a chic restaurant? We hope this list will help make your gifting experience more meaningful by focusing not only on aesthetics and wow factor but also functionality and meaning.
Image source: Casa Nhà
What could be worse than when a friend’s housewarming is nearing and you’re still clueless about what to gift? Avoid running around the city, panic searching for ceramic sets and scented candles. Casa Nhà is where to go for the best home gifting solutions, a one-stop furniture store within a complete range of gift items.
Casa Nhà was founded in 2017 with their gorgeous warehouse store opening in Thao Dien. The three-storey building immediately impressed with its innovative European design and the capacity to host a large variety of furniture choices and decor for literally all spaces in the house. Casa Nhà is one of the best stops for buying gifts for the home.
Image source: Casa Nhà
Walking around the Casa Nhà warehouse, you’ll instantly fall in love with their modern-looking mini poufs in different styles and shapes that can be perfectly paired with any armchair/lounge or stand decoratively on its own as a true icon of design. Poufs are the perfect solution for when you need extra comfy seating when enjoying a good chat with family and friends. They’re also perfect for when you’re snuggling in with your other half.
Saga Poufs, whose sweet, minimal design resembles colourful macarons fit seamlessly into any tasteful interior. The inspiration of a macaron is put together by two soft contoured shells sandwiching the contrasting Scandinavian wooden strip along the pouf’s centre.
Saga Pouf – a trace of sweetness for the beautiful living room
The living room is usually the first place we set foot within the home. This is the perfect opportunity to showcase decor that strongly reflects the homeowner’s unique personality.
While the chunky sofas are usually designed to easily blend into the overall background, armchairs stand out decoratively on their own. This item can be a powerful gift that both flaunts personal taste and comfort and luxury to the home. Its portability provides your lucky loved one with the freedom to creatively arrange and organize the piece within their home. Consider an armchair as a thoughtful and unique housewarming gift.
The Pod Armchair has an ergonomically designed backrest that blends seamlessly into its downward-sloping armrests to create an organic yet sturdy look. The fully padded, scallop shaped back cushion provides visual interest and overall comfort and support.
The Pod Armchair provides support, comfort and outstanding Nordic design.
Jean Paul Gaultier once said, “Perfume is the most intense form of memory”. Scents and fragrances are always a popular and thoughtful gift to receive and Casa Nhà offers an endless choice of delicious scented candles for the home.
Baobab Collection is a premium brand of handcrafted scented candles from Belgium. Proudly displayed at Casa Nhà, Baobab Collection is well known for superior fragrances and materials sourced from the most famous parts of Europe (mineral wax from Germany, crystal glass from Poland, and leather from Italy). Each candle is set in a gorgeous glass jar, completely made by hand to create a product that is completely unique and never the same as another. The packaging alone is an awe-inspiring experience for the receiver. The black box oozes luxury as the bowtie is pulled loose, and the prized candle within stimulates both sight and smell.
After more than a decade of sustainable business since 1998, Jardin Des Sens, the first restaurant by twin brothers, Laurent and Jaques Pourcel, was awarded three Michelin stars for excellent food quality and service. Following their new found fame, Laurent and Jaques started building their food empire. In January 2018, Jardin Des Sens opened its first store in Ho Chi Minh City, operated and in parallel with other four branches in Montpellier under Jacques’ direct supervision.
Situated inside an old, luxurious villa in District 3, whose design oozes classic ‘Frenchness’, Jardin Des Sens boasts a nostalgic look of ivory lavishness. Heavenly on the outside, timeless on the inside, the inner space is decorated semi-classically by wooden objects and chandeliers, chair and table sets. However, the real superstar here is the bar where dozens of world-renowned wines are displayed and stored inside a modern cellar rarely found elsewhere in HCMC. Jardin Des Sens never fails to delight all of our senses.
Image source: Jardin Des Sens
But, an experience at Jardin Des Sens doesn’t just stop at wonders and aesthetics. The experience of savouring your meal is what draws people to the restaurant. The dishes are carefully prepared with the level of dedication that bears a similarity to making a work of art. Each course stirs the heart of any appreciator of French cuisine.
Image source: Moriitalia
Our next stop to shop for the perfect gift is Moriitalia – the retail store specialising in kitchenappliances from world-renowned brands. In Ho Chi Minh City, the Moriitalia showroom can be found in VinCom Dong Khoi, full of much loved home and kitchen goods brands such as CharterHouse, CS and KitchenAid.
Shopping for highly functional and yet visually inspiring home products usually is the most challenging task for new homeowners. What about a brand new kitchen appliance for your culinary inclined parents that screams modern beauty and improves their cooking experience at home?
Image source: Moriitalia
KitchenAid has a global reputation for being the king of kitchen supplies. Each machine is designed, manufactured and assembled in America with 80% domestically sourced materials to ensure the highest quality before distribution. KitchenAid mixers are able to meet any mixing, folding, or kneading challenges, with great stability and little noise. Powerful functionality aside, KitchenAid products are absolutely stunning with their shiny, colourful, classic art deco appeal that fits easily into any kitchen space.
Banner Image source: casanha.com
The Ultimate Buying Guide for Vietnamese Coffee Lovers
Vietnamese Coffee is known for being some of the best available. The country is the top producer of Robusta in the world. Therefore, it is unsurprising that for travellers and expats in Vietnam, coffee is the top sought after souvenir and most often consumed beverage product.
However, with Ben Thanh Market and other familiar tourist destinations filled with hundreds of potentially dubious brands and nameless packets of coffee grinds roasted and left to stand for months and possibly even years, consumers are rightly apprehensive about the quality of what is on display.
A dazzling display of coffee beans and powder at Ben Thanh Market - by Mervin Lee
We’ve put together a concise and simple to understand guide to help you understand java-science so that you can choose Vietnamese coffee of good quality which, hopefully, agrees with your palate!
Definition of ‘Vietnamese Coffee’ and Relieving the Confusion
Vietnamese Coffee refers to both a style of traditional Vietnamese roast and a style of brew. It is possible to brew Italian-style roasted beans with the ubiquitous Vietnamese phin drip filter, and likewise, also possible to brew traditional Vietnamese-style dark roasts with a foreign device such as a French press.
Saigonese street coffee being mass-brewed using Vietnamese phin drip filters - by Mervin Lee
Traditional Vietnamese techniques involve roasting Robusta coffee beans very dark with additives such as butter, salt, whisky, rice liquor or even sugar and fish-sauce. These additives help to elevate the savouriness and palatability of the notoriously harsh and bitter tasting Robusta beans.
Chemical flavourings and fragrances are often added, with the most common being vanilla and hazelnut, the former an age-old cliché aroma sought after in Vietnamese coffee powder.
Fillers such as roasted corn, soybeans and red beans are common and some recipes call for filler content of up to 50%. Fillers are used to thicken, darken and somewhat sweeten the coffee and they also increase profits. Connoisseurs who are seeking pure coffee should note that it is practically impossible to gauge the purity of coffee in Vietnam based on looking at grinded coffee powder. Diligent people should opt to purchase whole beans at shops before requesting them to be grounded on the spot.
When extracted using the iconic Vietnamese phin drip filter, the espresso-like liquid is then served with or without ice, and preferably with condensed milk to offset it’s bitterness. This popular beverage is known as ca phe sua da, the renowned mascot of Vietnamese coffee.
Enjoying a cup of ca phe sua da on a hot Saigonese day - by Mervin Lee
Advancements in coffee farming has allowed the development of higher quality Robusta and Arabica coffee beans. Globalisation and changing preferences has resulted in a trend of roasting pure, additive-free coffee and subsequently brewing them with a wide range of foreign methods such as Italian-style espresso and paper filter. When these coffees are brewed using a phin, the technique remains Vietnamese.
Thus, the first item that you should procur is a high quality Vietnamese phin drip filter if you desire a strong and traditional Vietnamese brew. The phin works by filtering coffee through 2 layers of tiny holes and allowing the coffee to fall with the help of gravity.
City Pass Guide recommends the Trung Nguyen phins made of quality aluminium and available at all Trung Nguyen coffee shops. For connoisseurs who prefer a non-metal solution, Minh Long offers a series of beautiful porcelain Phins handcrafted in Binh Duong Province.
Roast Levels and Blends
Taste preference differs between individuals. Not everyone enjoys bitter coffee without sugar, and although many people do not appreciate light roasted and acidic coffee, third-wave coffee snobs may insist that such qualities are preferred.
“The first wave of American coffee culture was probably the 19th-century surge that put Folgers on every table, and the second was the proliferation, starting in the 1960s at Peet's and moving smartly through the Starbucks grande decaf latte, of espresso drinks and regionally labeled coffee. We are now in the third wave of coffee connoisseurship, where beans are sourced from farms instead of countries, roasting is about bringing out rather than incinerating the unique characteristics of each bean, and the flavor is clean and hard and pure.”
Robusta coffees are generally bitter and harsh in taste, while Arabica coffees are often more acidic, higher in natural sugar content and superior in fragrance. As a general guideline, a medium roasted coffee is a good balance between intensity, acidity, sweetness and fragrance, since ample time has been given for bitter compounds to degrade. Light roasted Arabicas are acidic but preserve the original aroma and flavour compounds, known as ‘origin character’ in third-wave coffee-speak. Dark roasted Arabica coffees are savoury and intense in flavour, having lost most of its acidity through the roasting process and may be bitter if coffee caramels have begun to burn in the roasting process if beans are not roasted with skill and care. French-style roast is an example of very dark roasted coffee.
As such, the skill of the coffee roaster and the art of blending different types of beans at different roast levels becomes extremely crucial for Italian-style espresso and Vietnamese phin coffee since these styles involve extracting coffee with very little water, resulting in highly concentrated and intense brews. Arabicas may be added to a predominantly Robusta blend to introduce pleasant acidity, aroma and to relieve the blend of dullness. Likewise, Robusta may be added to a predominantly Arabica blend to introduce body and crema for Italian-style espresso.
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Common ratios and names of these ratios at specialty coffee shops in Saigon include 20-80, 50-50 and 80-20, describing the percentage ratio of Arabica to Robusta coffee.
Here is a breakdown of the various types of coffee beans and species that may be found by examining the printed contents information on packaged commercial coffee.
Arabica - The most popular and widely consumed coffee species in the world with countless cultivated varieties. It is known for its nuanced, alluring floral and fruity notes, which vary wildly depending on region and varietal. Arabica is disliked by some due to its acidity, which can be mildly sweet and berry or citrus-like in specialty varieties.
Culi (Peaberry) Arabica - In normal circumstance, a coffee cherry contains two coffee beans. Peaberries, known as culi in Vietnamese coffee-lingo, are coffee beans that have developed into a single spherical bean due to the lack of fertilisation of the other bean. Culi Arabicas are very rare and known for a higher intensity of Arabica’s attributes.
Robusta - The underrated Robusta is known for being bitter and harsh but is the choice for daily indulgence in Southeast Asia due to its natural lack of acidity. Advancements in cultivation and coffee processing has improved it’s flavour drastically.
Culi (Peaberry) Robusta - Culi Robustas are known to be more bitter, but also sweeter, and are said to contain considerably more caffeine.
Liberica and Excelsa - Rare and related species of hardy, tropical coffee plants. Liberica is popular in Malaysia and the Philippines and is liked for its attractive and earthy aroma that is often accompanied by a smokey taste resembling dark chocolate, berries and tropical fruits. Excelsa coffee is similar and is known to be tart and fruity with a lingering finish.
When buying ground coffee, It is critical for a buyer to check for the coffee roast date. Dark roasted coffees oxidize faster and light roasted coffees last longer if kept in airtight mason jars. As a rule of thumb, buy coffee that is as fresh as possible! When buying from shops that are able to grind fresh coffee beans, one should choose the grind size based on the intended brew method (e.g.: coarse for French press, medium-fine for paper filter and fine for espresso).
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If you’re intending on becoming a coffee snob, investing in a coffee grinder and relying on coffee beans may be your best bet if you’re a sucker for freshness.
Common Vietnamese Coffee Terms
Bột - Powder Nguyên hạt - Unground coffee beans Hạt Rang - Roasted coffee beans
Cà Phê Nguyên Chất - Pure coffee without additives Cà Phê Rang Xay - Roasted and ground coffee Cà Phê Hòa Tan - Instant/dissolvable ground
Cà Phê Mít - Mít means jackfruit in Vietnamese and Cà Phê Mít has nothing to do with the yellow-fleshed tropical fruit and refers to Liberica and Excelsa coffee. Cà Phê Chồn - Civet coffee. Often known in the western world as weasel coffee. A coffee processed from faeces of civets which consumed coffee cherries. Natural wild civet coffee is very expensive while farmed varieties are more affordable. Most civet coffee in Vietnam is a made with chemical flavouring and/or artificial enzymes.